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René Veenstra: why is an effective anti-bullying programme not good news for all pupils?

Why is an effective anti-bullying programme not good news for all pupils?

Within the Sociology Department in Groningen we have been researching bullying and anti-bullying programmes for years. We have seen that a good anti-bullying programme greatly reduces bullying. Fantastic news, but why doesn’t that apply to all children?

René Veenstra

In schools where we did research, 80 percent of the students were not or hardly bullied at all while 20 percent initially suffered a lot of bullying. After introducing the anti-bullying programme, the bullying was greatly reduced, from 20 to 3.5 percent. That 3.5 percent kept scoring high on victimhood. On average, this comes down to one pupil per class.

An important question to answer is what the success of a good anti-bullying programme does for those who are not helped by it. If such a programme benefits most pupils, but a single person remains bullied, is that person then worse off than before? Yes, it turns out the chronic victims are worse off in a school with a good anti-bullying programme than in a school used for control purposes. This is what we call the healthy-context paradox.

For the perception of a victim it matters if there are other victims. If they are not alone as victims they are able to share their experiences to their mutual benefit. When victims see that their former fellow sufferers are now enjoying school, the feeling that they are alone is increasing. Their confidence declined and their feelings of depression increased. That they are worse off is not because of their individual background but because of the success in their environment.

prof. dr. D.R. (René) Veenstra
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Bullying and victimization, prosocial and antisocial behavior, social network analysis, social norms, criminality and security
Last modified:10 September 2019 10.24 a.m.
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